The Sixers had a lot of time on their hands during their flight to China.
Seriously, a lot.
“A short flight,” T.J. McConnell joked last month when asked about what he was looking forward to regarding the trip. “I think we leave on [Oct.] 1st and get there the 3rd, so I think we’re all excited for that.”
Joking aside, a plane ride from Philadelphia to Shanghai — as the Sixers get set to take part in the 2018 NBA China Games — spans at least a dozen hours and 7,404 miles. That’s plenty of time for reflection, such as how far this franchise has come in a short amount of time.
Just three years ago, the Sixers were preparing for what ended up being one of the worst seasons in NBA history. The 2015-16 squad was the black eye and bloody nose of “the process” as the team went 10-72.
Those days are in the rearview now and the Sixers have a trio of supremely talented, foreign-born players to thank. Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Dario Saric helped usher in a new era for the organization that not only put the league on notice but also increased the Sixers’ global visibility.
“We pride ourselves on the unique, international culture we have created here in Philadelphia,” Brett Brown said when the NBA China Games were announced. “It is something that we pay close attention to and it resonates throughout our roster, front office and staff. We are excited to bring our team to China in the fall and connect with the truly great fans of a basketball-rich country.”
China is just the latest stop on the Sixers’ quest for worldwide recognition as they take a roster that currently features six international players for two games against the Mavericks in Shanghai (Oct. 5) and Shenzhen (Oct. 8).
Prior to this trip, the Sixers took part in last season’s annual regular-season game in London. And less than a week ago, the squad opened its preseason slate by hosting Australian professional team Melbourne United that even left Aussie reporters asking when the budding stars would pay the country a visit.
“For sure. I’ll have to talk to Ben, but for sure,” Embiid said of taking a trip to meet his fans in Australia. “I’ve always wanted to come.”
From coming attraction to global must-see.